Spending time in Belgium and France, one becomes accustom to the style of beauty that is seen in the lovely old world European home of Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen. Architectural Digest covered their home in September 2013 with glossy images of light-filled rooms installed with reclaimed and aged French oak flooring and antique Belgian Bluestone pavers. It is now February 2017 and the Brady/Bündchen home is a beacon of style for American shores, where the aesthetic across that European pond is still a mix-match of styles that I have a hard time defining. One simply will not find so many materials used in one place as designers and homeowners seem to do in the United States. I have a three color rule maximum and in regards to material - less is more.
What does this mean then for someone who wants to translate the spectacular look and feel of the Brady/Bündchen home? Where would one start?
The first thing is to choose materials that transmit the French and Belgian farmhouse aesthetic into a home and starting with the flooring is the anchor to which all other elements will depend. To capture the flooring of Tom and Gisele's home, who used antique French oak wide plank wood floors and antique Belgian bluestone pavers throughout, one does not have to look further than Historic Decorative Materials Kings of France Aged Wide Plank Oak Flooring Collection or Original Patina 17th & 18th Century French Reclaimed Oak Flooring Collection.
The image above is an aged wood floor that has an 18th century patina simply unmatched. From our King's of France Collection, this particular color is called Cèpes (named after the Italian mushroom). I almost want to define this color in terms of the Japanese defined 5th taste that is Umami. It is the savory color defined by a feeling, that leaves one feeling transported. The mushroom browns with whispers of grey mingle to the eye's delight, igniting some memory long ago when surely life was perfect. The aging technique of this French oak floor is a secret locked in a box, into another box, than on top of a mountain...in a box. This sentence means you will simply not find anywhere a wood floor comparable in authenticity, texture and aging technique as the King's of France Collection.
As a wide-plank floor in either solid or engineered, one can also add interest by installing the Parquet de Versailles aged French oak wood floors like Tom and Gisele did in their home.
Onto the stone floor. Belgian Bluestone pavers are building a reputation in America for it's strength, beauty and refreshing color change that is of a blue/gray or blue/black. It creates new possibilities for design and is that welcome change from the ubiquitous stone floors that tend to be the same color as the walls...usually some sort of neutral beige. Contrast is the key when designing with Belgian bluestone - juxtaposing these rich saturated colors with whites for a pop or browns for softer aesthetics.
Not all bluestone is alike in terms of color and texture. Bluestone is quarried all over the world including China and Vietnam. Of course, my preference is the authentic Belgian bluestone...from Belgium. At Historic Decorative Materials, we have the original antique 17th century Belgian bluestone salvaged from churches, squares and fine manor homes around Belgium or aged Belgian bluestone pavers that are aged to look like 18th century stones. The Brady/Bündchen home uses antique Belgian bluestone that creates a sea of blue/black patina that contrasts with their white soft stucco walls and arched porticos.
I am happy to say that the quality and the provenance of their antique Belgian bluestone pavers is found as well with us, at Historic Decorative Materials. We pride ourselves on not settling for any material that is not the authentic material, and as seen from the images below, the color and patina of our antique Belgian bluestone pavers are extraordinary.
At this point, I am swaying a bit away from the Brady/Bündchen home in terms of style. The article in Architectural Digest describes their home as "old-world European architecture—think French château via the Pacific Coast Highway". The reality is not everyone lives on the California coast and the final two design elements I am personally adding are not only beautifully authentic with the materials discussed so far, but very much on trend 2017.
The first is the antique blue grey fireplace from Burgundy, France. In it's simplicity - it is breathtaking. And it goes without saying that the blue grey French stone with it's sister flooring of Belgian bluestone is a heavenly match of quiet, neutral soft tones, perfectly paired with the warm cognac and cèpes colors of the aged French oak wood floors. The hearth and firebox would be most complete when using our reclaimed Belgian blue gray bricks. This will add texture and contrast to the smooth curved stone of the fireplace mantel but remain within the blue grey color tones that would read as one piece on a wall.
And last but not least is a decorative tile that adds refreshing contrast to the subdued surfaces at play here. In Tom and Gisele's home, they chose a reclaimed Tunisian tile with a multitude of colors. This was back in 2013. Today, with Elle Decor claiming celestial prints on trend now in 2017 (and I am never one to chase trends...ever), it just so happens I painted a celestial design that is found in our 16th Century On the Road to Florence Italian Decorative Tile Collection. I unearthed lost Renaissance archives of 17th Century Florentine motifs and repainted the designs onto tile. I choose a Florentine Midnight blue glaze - a blue black that synchronizes with the blues of the Belgian bluestone and provides a cooler contrast to the warm French wood floors.
The decorative tile above from the On the Road to Florence Collection is called Stelle di Galileo.
I will end this blog with the image that began it...pulling back all the deconstructed elements into one design board for the overall effect. And overall, when I view these materials, it triggers warm memories with friends I have had in the French and Belgium countryside. The natural materials with the blue-greys, cognacs and whites make for a peaceful and lovely existence.
Designing a home today with so much choice on the market is daunting. I believe this is why many homeowners have gone to a white-on-white aesthetic. While this white design has it's place and is beautiful, it creates a coldness, a not well-lived in, unrealistic environment. Perfection is not the goal here. Living is. Adding kids toys and clothing and books and mail to a white-on-white perfection is a constant stain and the need to keep extremely tidy may weigh on the homeowner. When a home has an already warm, well-lived in ambiance, perhaps a homeowner will feel more mindful and enjoy the moments of her beautiful home instead of creating a checklist of things that need to be done.
As a wrap up achieving the Brady/Bündchen home, who honors a life well-lived, sticking with a few select, warm materials throughout the home, will help in the design process. As for me, in love with the French and Belgian farmhouse aesthetic, hats off to Tom and Gisele whose home exemplifies this authentic style, ahead of the trends back in 2013.
Thank you for your time,Emmi Micallef
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